MIL-OSI China: Popularity of ancient Chinese architecture stands strong

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Source: China State Council Information Office 3

Tourists visit Jinci Temple, a historical site known for its ancient buildings, in Taiyuan, Shanxi province. [Wang Xuetao/Xinhua]

Lin Guodong’s trip from Shanghai to Yuncheng, Shanxi province, over the May Day holiday this year was his third visit to the region known for ancient buildings.

“I have loved history since I was a child. Compared to reading books, a study trip offers a multidimensional experience. It allows me to feel history up close and systematically enrich my knowledge,” said Lin, 29.

There are some 28,000 ancient buildings in Shanxi, including three Tang Dynasty (618-907) wooden structures and the world’s tallest wooden pagoda.

The province also boasts 509 Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) wooden structures, accounting for over 80 percent of such buildings in China. It has more colored sculptures, murals and ancient stages than anywhere else nationwide.

In recent years, an increasing number of young people like Lin have flocked to Shanxi to explore its treasure of ancient buildings, sharing their experiences and travel tips on social media platforms such as Weibo and Xiaohongshu.

“Although my itinerary was already packed, there were still many places I didn’t visit. Shanxi is worth multiple visits,” wrote Zhou Zhiyu, a 21-year-old student at Beijing Institute of Technology, on Xiaohongshu.

Zhou, who grew up in Zhejiang province, has been to Shanxi twice to explore its ancient buildings. She fondly recalls watching a flock of birds fly over the colorful glazed pagoda at Guangsheng Temple in Hongtong county.

“The ancient buildings in Shanxi, with their earthy colors, exude history. I prefer this kind of atmosphere,” she said.

Yang Jie, an ancient building enthusiast born in the 1980s, shares Zhou’s passion. In 2016, he left his job to pursue his love for history. The following year, he founded Jinxingji research and study center, which specializes in in-depth educational tours focused on history and culture.

“Starting with no participants on our first tour, we now receive nearly 5,000 visitors a year, 31 percent of whom are under 30. It indicates that an increasing number of young people are interested in ancient buildings, and the demand for professional guides is growing,” Yang said.

Yang and his team are devoted to selecting the iconic ancient buildings from across the country and hiring professionals to explain their structures, murals and sculptures, in an effort to perfectly blend tangible heritage with expert knowledge.

The growing enthusiasm for ancient buildings is fueled by the revival of traditional Chinese culture. As more people seek to understand Chinese history and civilization through these historical sites, the movement for ancient building conservation is also gaining strength.

Wang Kai, an ancient building enthusiast working at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is dedicated to ancient building protection. Inspired by the works of renowned late architect Liang Sicheng, he followed in Liang’s footsteps and began to visit ancient buildings in 2015.

“There are many old photos in the books, and I wanted to see what these ancient buildings look like now. It quickly became an unstoppable passion, and I’ve since visited hundreds of them,” Wang said.

He believes ancient buildings are crucial carriers of traditional Chinese culture, with their sculptures, murals and inscriptions being significant elements.

After visiting many buildings, Wang and other enthusiasts such as He Yanjun from Changzhi city, Shanxi, established a volunteer service center for cultural heritage protection, where they plan to organize voluntary patrols and introductions at ancient buildings.

As an overseas returnee, Wang decided to print his photos into books with English captions to introduce the materials and aesthetics of Chinese traditional architecture to foreign visitors.

MIL OSI China News